‘The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution’, by David Wootton

9780061759529Andrea Wulf at the Financial Times:

It is almost impossible to overstate the significance of the scientific revolution. As David Wootton’s masterly The Invention of Science shows, it was nothing less than the triumph of the future over the past. Before it, Aristotle had been the leading authority on nature and philosophers had sought above all to recover the lost culture of the ancients. Afterwards, the idea that new knowledge was possible had become axiomatic.

According to Wootton, who is anniversary professor of history at the University of York, modern science was invented between 1572, when the astronomer Tycho Brahe saw a new star in the sky (proof that the heavens could change), and 1704, when Isaac Newton published his book Opticks, which drew conclusions on the nature of light, based on experiments. Everything changed within those decades — even, Wootton contends, the very language used to understand the world. Indeed, one of the premises of The Invention of Science is that “a revolution in ideas requires a revolution in language”.

Take the word “discovery.” Wootton argues that when Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, he didn’t have a word to describe what he had done. The nearest Latin verbs were invenio (find out), which Columbus used, reperio (obtain), which was employed by Johannes Stradanus in the title of his book of engravings depicting the new discoveries, and exploro (explore), which Galileo used to report his sightings of Jupiter’s moons.

more here.